CANADIANS IN ITALY, 1943/44
As Remembrance Day approaches most Canadians remember D Day, the battle in Normandy, Holland and Germany but we don’t often think of the Italian Campaign.
Canadian troops landed near the toe of Italy in September 1943 and headed north. The campaign continued until February, 1945. During that time there more than 25,000. Canadian casualties including almost 6,000 deaths. The opposition was the German army as the Italians had capitulated and Germans took over.
The 1st Canadian Army included:
Saskatoon Light Infantry (machine gun)
1st Infantry Brigade
Royal Canadian Regiment
Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment
48th Highlanders of Canada
2nd Infantry Brigade
Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantr
Seaforth Highlanders of Canada
Loyal Edmonton Regiment
3rd Infantry Brigade
Royal 22e Regiment
Carleton and York Regiment
West Nova Scotia Regimen
1st Armoured Car Regiment (Royal Canadian Dragoons)
1st Field Regiment
2nd Field Regiment
3rd Field Regiment
1st Anti-Tank Regiment
2nd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment
5th Armoured Division
3rd Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment (Governor General’s Horse Guards)
5th Armoured Brigade
2nd Armoured Regiment (Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians))
5th Armoured Regiment (8th Princess Louise’s (New Brunswick) Hussars)
9th Armoured Regiment (British Columbia Dragoons)
There was a large contingent of BC boys Seaforth highlanders and the PPCLI. Harry Rankin, former Vancouver alderman was there as was Farley Mowat.
The first significant battle took place over Christmas, 1943 around and in the coastal town of Ortona. The Canadians fought building to building against German paratroopers and drove the Germans north. A quarter of all Canadian deaths in Italy occurred here and those boys are buried in the Moro River Canadian War Cemetery just south of Ortona.
Moro River War Cemetery
The Canadian then moved over to the west to help support the battle at Cassino and the liberation of Rome in the Spring and Summer of 1944. Rome was liberated on June4, 1944. Back on the Adriatic coast the Canadian army moved north in the fall of 1944 and attacked the Gothic Line which stretched from Pisa to Pesaro. The objective was to take the town of Rimini. They arrived to a deserted Rimini September 24. Many more casualties were endured on the way to Rimini and many of those boys are buried in the Gradara War Cemetery south of Rimini.
Gradara War Cemetery
The Italian campaign continued into the spring of 1945, but the Canadians did not participate in the final victory. In February 1945 the 1st Canadian Corps began the move to Northwest Europe to be re-united with the First Canadian Army. There they would join in the drive into Germany and Holland and see the war in Europe to its end.
If you are visiting Italy, try to visit one of the 20 cemeteries in which Canadian boys are buried . It’s a truly moving experience.